Marlin have long been recognized as crafty, elusive fish, which is one of the reasons fishermen prize them.
Biologists in the state Department of Fish and Game would like to know what in their behavior patterns makes them crafty and elusive, and they hope to get some answers through a tagging study.
Said Dennis Bedford, biologist in charge of the study: "We hope to collect the first known documentation on marlin habits. We're breaking new ground in the study of marlin behavior."
The program, a joint venture of the DFG and the National Marine Fisheries Service, will operate largely around the Channel Islands.
Marlin fishermen from the Balboa Angling Club in Newport Beach will help catch the fish, which will then be tagged with sonic transmitters and released. Since the transmitters are good only up to two miles, biologists will have to follow the marlin, once they are tagged.
"Four biologists will take turns in pairs, working 12-hour shifts tracking the marlin," Bedford said. "It will be a very long and tedious task."
The tags will be pressure sensitive so the biologists will learn the marlins' depth patterns.
The project will continue through November and the information collected will be run through a computer.
"We're hoping to resolve the continuing controversy surrounding the use of certain commercial fishing gear and its potential for catching marlin, a sport-only fish," Bedford said.
A growing trend in catch-and-release fishing for king salmon along Battle Creek and other Sacramento River tributaries apparently is something of a mixed blessing.
"People are taking cameras along, deliberately catching salmon, playing the fish for a half hour and then taking photos of them," warden Lt. Steve Callan said. "By the time the salmon is landed, held up for photos and released, it often is stressed to the point of no longer being a viable spawner."
Are the chemicals used to clean up oil spills worse than the oil itself?
Edward A. Simons, the DFG's oil spill response coordinator, intends to find out. Under his direction, the DFG is beginning a three-year, $2.25-million research project on oil dispersants in hopes of someday being able to specify certain ones for certain jobs.
"At this point, we don't have all the answers to questions about the ecological consequences of dispersant use," Simons said. "Our study will help find those answers and guide us to safer, more efficient and effective ways to reduce the negative effects of oil spills and subsequent clean-up."
Concern about clean-up chemicals began in 1968, when an oil transport ran aground, spilling several thousand barrels of crude oil in England. Studies of the spill and the biological recovery from it showed that the dispersants used then, mostly strong detergents and solvents, caused more ecological damage than the oil.
Oil companies have since developed more effective dispersant materials that reportedly are less poisonous to marine life. The DFG study will determine the acute and chronic effects of the new dispersants on fish and wildlife, and an instruction manual will be prepared, in cooperation with the state Water Resources Control Board, outlining approved clean-up agents.
Briefly Ever wonder why walruses have those long tusks? To impress their neighbors with their machismo, says Francis Fay, biologist at the University of Alaska, in an article by Jay Heinrichs in National Wildlife magazine. During the breeding season, the males confront one another, flaunting their tusks in hopes that rivals will back down. The most impressive tusks usually belong to males that have sired the most offspring. . . . The Southern California Subcommittee of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council will conduct a public meeting at 9:30 a.m., Oct. 23, at the Angeles National Forest headquarters in Arcadia. . . . John Deinstadt, program director of the DFG's wild trout program, will be the speaker at the Sierra Pacific Flyfishers' monthly meeting next Thursday night at the Nob Hill Banquet Center in Panorama City. . . . DFG biologists are recruiting volunteers to help construct wildlife drinking stations in the Newberry Mountains near Barstow Sept. 20-21, and to develop two Inyo County springs Oct. 4-5. Those interested may call the DFG wildlife management office at (213) 590-5158. Volunteers also will gather Sept. 20 at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in north Orange County for the annual fall clean-up. For more information on that project, contact Lorraine Faber of Amigos de Bolsa Chica at (714) 897-7003. . . . Show time: San Diego Bay In-The-Water Power and Sailboat Show, Oct, 1-5, Chula Vista Marina.